Angus and Mearns Matters: South Esk a reel gem in the Angus sporting crown

© DC Thomson

As befitting its status as the Queen of the UK’s rivers, the annual ceremony heralding the beginning of a new season in pursuit of the King of Fish is a grand spectacle on the banks of the Tay.

Traffic behaving under clear winter Angus skies and the gaze of the effective A90 average speed cameras might not have been aware, but not too many yards away a smaller gathering took place alongside the River South Esk just north of Forfar last week as the opening of a 2018 salmon season which will run until the end of October was celebrated.

Finavon Castle is fine water, the scene of my first — and so far only — rod and line encounter with salmo salar.

In a deep pool the line went tight on what I thought was a snagging rock in the deep, dark water — until the object began a juggernaut charge below the surface.

The combination of excitement, panic and brain-fade idiocy of tightening the reel tension rather than reducing it presented an easy escape for the leviathan (the one that got away is always a monster).

A brief encounter, but fishing isn’t about catching fish.

It’s the sporting aside to experiences like the enjoyment of a dew dawn or magnificent burnt orange sunset; sharing pursuit of a Lintrathen Loch troot with a diving Osprey on a mission to feed hungry mouths back in the eyrie; or encountering the inquisitive Roe deer sniffing for treats inside the fishing bag on Rescobie’s green bank.

And if the many fans of Angus’s finest beach at Lunan Bay believe they see it at its best during daytime walks, they’ve never enjoyed the thrill of moonlit nights stealthily trying to cast a tiny fly onto the nose of an easily-spooked sea trout.

The opening of the 2018 season on the South Esk was well worth marking, as a reminder of the important work — and not insignificant sums spent — on projects along its length which benefit the environment and economy well beyond just angling interests, all the while maintaining the Angus river’s reputation as a sporting gem.

Tight Lines.